White House Bans U.S. Investment in World's Largest Shipbuilder

CSSC Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding launches China's first Type 075 big-deck amphib (PLAN file image)

Published Jun 3, 2021 5:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

In an executive order issued Thursday, the Biden administration implemented a ban on all U.S. investment in four of China's biggest maritime companies - including China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), the world's largest commercial shipbuilder and the linchpin of China's naval modernization effort.

The new investment ban is intended to address "the threat posed by the military-industrial complex of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and its involvement in military, intelligence, and security research and development programs . . . under the PRC's Military-Civil Fusion strategy," according to the order. It broadens an existing investment ban initiated by the Trump administration in late 2020. 

Effective August 2, U.S. citizens may no longer hold securities in CSSC; China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), recently absorbed by CSSC; China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), China's primary offshore oil and gas developer; and China Communications Construction Corporation (CCCC), the infrastructure firm known for its "Belt and Road" overseas port projects. CCCC also played a key role in building China's string of militarized bases on reclaimed land in the Spratly Islands.

The order does not prohibit U.S. entities from doing business day-to-day with the blacklisted firms, and it has no effect on non-U.S. entities. As the listed firms are primarily state-owned (including all of the maritime firms named above), a U.S.-national investment ban is unlikely to have a material effect beyond limiting future access to American capital markets.

Many of the blacklisted firms' U.S. client relationships will likely continue. In particular, CSSC has developed well-publicized R&D connections with a handful of American maritime entities; for U.S.-domiciled shipowners, CSSC repair yards and services are part of the landscape for port calls in China, and viable substitutes might not always be available for emergency repairs.